Workforce or People Planning - Simple Steps

Workforce, or people planning, means identifying the strengths and skills you will need people to have, the work they will need to do, and when you will need them, to meet future objectives. Ideally you will be thinking and planning up to 5 years ahead.

Having a people plan, which is shared, understood and used by managers, will also help inform: succession planning for key roles; skills and leadership development; performance management; role design; vacancy management and talent attraction and selection.

As part of workforce planning, we should identify where diversity opportunities exist by considering the workforce needed to create teams that perform better. Being aware of the profile of teams currently and the work that they do now and will do in the future will enable us to use positive action on a case by case basis where applicable to support our longer term strategic plans.

Thus, people planning will, over time, help build teams of diverse, talented staff from different heritages and lifestyles, promoting inclusion of staff at all levels. 

The steps you can follow to plan your future workforce / people needs are summarised below.

Workforce planning

Workforce planning 1

Things you might want to look at:

  • What areas will grow?
  • What will slow / stop?
  • New areas of investment?(for example; research, teaching areas, partnerships, collaborations, etc)
  • What will need delivering differently?
  • Any external changes to respond to?
  • Are there any labour market shortages that need factoring?
  • Other?


Workforce planning 2

Things you might want to look at:

  • What are the critical roles for future (ideally put succession plans in place for these)?
  • What skills and contributions will be needed?
  • Will roles need redesigning, if so, where?
  • In which areas will staffing change (e.g. demographics)? How?
  • Departmental structure – how will this need to change?
  • What would the workforce look like if it reflected the diversity of students / wider community / other stakeholders? Are there diversity deficits or opportunities?
  • What does all this mean for management and leadership?


Team Strengths

What strengths do you need from your collective team to achieve the vision?


  • Ownership of the department’s vision
  • Good communication skills (including social media) both written and verbal
  • Global and cultural understanding including language skills
  • Cross-functional knowledge
  • Entrepreneurial and outward facing
  • Consensus Building – with listening, coaching and skills and the ability to empathise
  • Big picture and strategically led
  • Detail and process driven
  • Constructive challengers and open to new ideas
  • Conservative and stability oriented
  • Reflective and thoughtful
  • Outgoing and action orientated
  • Other

Workforce planning 3(I)Opportunities could include: future recruitment, promotions, succession planning and development.(/I)

Things you might consider:

  • Leadership Gaps
  • Diversity
    • What / where are the deficits (gender, race, nationality, socio-economic and educational background, faith, religion and belief, age, disabilities (visible and non-visible), sexual orientation)?
    • What action can you take to address any deficits?
    • What opportunities are there to diversify your staff profile (eg recruitment)?
  • Team strengths and skills:
    • Are there gaps between what you need / what you already have
    • How are staff feeling? Engaged? Motivated? Concerns re values / behaviours?
    • What future opportunities (eg future recruitment) to address these?
  • What key skills / knowledge in can’t be lost?
    • If they sit with one person – what plan is needed to protect the department’s future vision (e.g. succession, development plans, etc)?
    • Who is likely to be leaving / retiring / moving roles in the future and what would be the impact?
    • Are there staff with potential to be developed? Plan?
    • What are the appropriate employment arrangements being used in all cases to sustain the department’s future?


Workforce planning 4

Considering everything, what are the critical workforce issues you will address?

Things you might consider:

  • Develop a plan, with targets
  • What are the key actions to be taken; people responsible and timescales, e.g.:
      • All resourcing managers to review role definitions and person specifications to ensure that they take account of the skills needed / diversity gap (All).
      • Develop, with HR, a workshop to surface behaviours needed etc (HOD)
      • Establish new performance measures for department (Leadership team)
      • Create succession plan/development, build conversations into SRDS with staff, identify developmental needs (All Line Managers).
  • Communication, Support and Information for your managers
  • Mechanisms to regularly review progress / outcomes

How will you articulate and share the plan with your people managers so they understand the impact on future resourcing activity (e.g. role design; skills development; diversity of talent; attraction, recruitment and selection etc) and take necessary action?


The following should be taken into account when implementing workforce planning:

✓ It needs to start with the business plan, ‘future-focussed’, and sufficiently flexible to deal with constant change;
✓ It should be dynamic and reviewed regularly to ensure its still relevant;
✓ It’s not just about numbers. It is also about strengths, skills, potential and how these are deployed and organised. As such it links into development, succession planning , organisational and role design, and a number of other people management practices;
✓ The process should enable co-operation between managers and minimise any competition between departments for people resources;
✓ It brings together operational and the strategic planning processes. There’s a need to be able to think strategically whilst taking practical action;
✓ It’s as much art as science. There is no single formula to give a ‘correct’ workforce plan. However, with a wealth of data available, the art is about bringing this together and interpreting it in a meaningful way;
✓Your HR team will be able to help you support the people aspects of business planning.

Adapted from the CIPD, 2017